|The SA Phendula is a commercial meat breed of rabbits, created in South Africa over the last twelve years
(2002). In other words, a South African Landrace Breed, ratified by the South African Rabbit Judges Council at
the Pretoria “Jakaranda” Championship Show in September 2014. Phendula, loosely translated from Zulu and
Xhosa means solution or answer. To be called an SA Phendula, each individual rabbit must be assessed and
rated on its’ own merit, using the accepted breed standards and assessment categories.
Having kept rabbits for most of my life, I went looking for some to breed for meat and keep as pets. I searched
all over without much luck. Eventually I managed to find some real odds and sods in pet shops where ever I
happened to travel all over Gauteng and North West, slowly building up the herd to about one hundred in total.
I knew there were great breeders in Natal but never had good reason to travel there.
|Still searching a few years later I found, to my delight, three somewhat bigger does. Unfortunately they were
completely white with red eyes. I think they were New Zealand Whites crossed with Chinchilla Giganta.
I was dubious about breeding them into my stock as I had already established that this colour combination
would not do well. It was a tossup between survival traits and size. Meat production won that round and I put
Sometime later on I found a doe which I now believe to have been a Chinchilla Giganta or cross thereof.
I was really excited about breeding her as she had close to the “wild” or ”camouflage” coat I was looking for,
which had already started showing in the herd at this point. Finally in 2010, I managed to bring up three bucks
from Natal, being a Californian, Flemish Giant and New Zealand Black.
|Now my breeding program really took off and I had great fun in seeing the almost instant improvement in the
size of my stock. Hybrid vigour is an amazing thing! The next challenge was to keep the “hybrid vigour” going
through the generations so that it became a trait and not just a first generation expectation.
Why? I started with what I had available. By the time purebreds were within reach I had a pretty good herd
already so why cull out what had proved its self and buy in does that would have to go through years of adapt
or die? It was viable to bring in bucks to improve on what was here.
|Why a new breed? I had not intended to develop a new breed. I was quite happy calling them crossbreds and
did so for many years. My only intention was to breed a rabbit that could and did survive and thrive
productively under “harsh” conditions to provide viable healthy meat for my family. I have since discovered
that genetic breeding material is limited in South Africa and we as breeders are under no circumstances
allowed to import new genetics, so something a little different or new, well adapted to our conditions is really
not a bad idea.
|The SA Phendula breed still has some distance to go in developing and refining. The reason for assessing each
individual on its’ own merit and classifying each rabbit assessed into a specific category, is to facilitate future
breeding and development, ensuring progress within the breed. The accepted breed standard and assessment
categories will be re-evaluated from time to time by the South African Rabbit Judges Council, with this
improvement in mind.
I believe that the SA Phendula will play an important role in providing food security to the African continent in
the future. With knowledge and training rabbits can provide quality, healthy, tasty and sustainable meat for your
family especially if you grow the rabbits’ food yourself.
On the other hand, rabbit breeding is not, under any circumstance, a quick “get rich” scheme.